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Managing the boundary of an 'open' project

  • O'Mahoney, Siobhán

    (Harvard University)

  • Ferraro, Fabrizio


    (IESE Business School)

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    In the past ten years, the boundaries between public and open science and commercial research efforts have become more porous. Scholars have thus more critically examined ways in which these two institutional regimes intersect. Large open source software projects have also attracted commercial collaborators and now struggle to develop code in an open public environment that still protects their communal boundaries. This research applies a dynamic social network approach to understand how one community-managed software project, Debian, developed a membership process. We examine the project's face-to-face social network over a five-year period (1997-2001) to see how changes in the social structure affected the evolution of membership mechanisms and the determination of gatekeepers. While the amount and importance of a contributor's work increased the probability that a contributor would become a gatekeeper, those more central in the social network were more likely to become gatekeepers and influence the membership process. A greater understanding of the mechanisms open projects use to manage their boundaries has critical implications for research and knowledge-producing communities operating in pluralistic, open and distributed environments.

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    Paper provided by IESE Business School in its series IESE Research Papers with number D/537.

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    Length: 32 pages
    Date of creation: 21 Jan 2004
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:ebg:iesewp:d-0537
    Contact details of provider: Postal: IESE Business School, Av Pearson 21, 08034 Barcelona, SPAIN
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    2. Paul A. David, 2000. "The Digital Technology Boomerang: New Intellectual Property Rights Threaten Global "Open Science"," Working Papers 00016, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
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    9. Barabási, Albert-László & Albert, Réka & Jeong, Hawoong, 1999. "Mean-field theory for scale-free random networks," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 272(1), pages 173-187.
    10. Bruce Kogut & Anca Metiu, 2001. "Open-Source Software Development and Distributed Innovation," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(2), pages 248-264, Summer.
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